Thursday, 6 September 2018

Byfield Pool 3

Byfield Pool is always going to be limited in species-richness as it contains no ancient woodland, being apparently constructed to feed Boddington Reservoir, itself dating back to the canal age. Nevertheless it has the feel of an ancient habitat and there is always a hope that something special could crop up.

Vines of Black Bryony, Tamus communis, festooned the hedges as I approached the reserve.

A temptation for birds. Black Bryony near the edge of Byfield Pool
Reserve. 6 September, 2018
This is the only British representative of the Yam Family, Dioscoriaceae. Although not related to White Bryony the two plants share the doubful merit of being toxic. If the berries of Black Bryony are eaten they will cause blistering of the mouth and rarely is enough eaten to cause severe illness. Furthermore their ingestion can, like rhubarb, lead to the formation of calcium oxalate crystals within the body.

The pool is surrounded by woodland, largely of willows. Some specimens bore large burrs on the trunks.
A large burr made this willow noteworthy.
Byfield Pool, Northants. 6 September, 2018
The cause of burrs is usually difficult to establish but the result is greatly prized by wood turners and a large burr can fetch a high price. Because they begin as a problem they have been described as being rather like pearls in oysters.

Byfield pools may be interesting botanically but it is not the place to find spectacular flowers. Hedge Woundwort, with its rank-smelling leaves, is a familiar hedgerow plant but at Byfield Pool it is replaced by Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris. In books this species is often described as odourless but in fact it too has a rather disagreeable smell, though fortunately faint.

Marsh Woundwort occupied some of the wetter ground.
Byfield Pool. 6 September, 2018
The only other flowers to catch my attention were those of a stitchwort. I was hoping it would prove to be the increasingly rare Marsh Stitchwort but it was the common Stellaria holosteum. It is pretty enough if examined closely but hardly causes a sharp intake of breath.
Common Stitchwort, Stellaria holosteum. Common perhaps but it
only seemed occur in one small patch. Byfield Pool. 6 September, 2018
So was my visit worth it? Absolutely! I took a wide range of species including a large ground beetle, Pterostichus niger. It is a very common insect but, at 20 mm, is quite impressive. It will take several hours at the microscope to properly sort out the insects, woodlice and millipedes I found but again it should increase our understanding of what Byfield Pool has to offer.

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